The Island of Spinalonga

On this blisteringly hot summer’s day here in the British Isles, I think of another island, far away but even hotter than this: I think of the Greek island of Crete, an island surrounded by the Mediterranean and Aegean diamond-studded seas and filled with the warmth and hospitality of its people.

Crete (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Crete oozes history, boasting ancient ruins of its long ago Minoan Civilization.  Driving down its narrow, winding roads you come across hidden coves with tavernas serving island- grown, freshly-prepared Cretan food with refrigerator-chilled glass tankards filled to the brim with ice-cold beer.

The Greeks don’t believe in eating without drinking: you find a brightly painted, wooden table and chairs placed invitingly on the beach beneath the shade of a tree.

There you sit, hot, hungry and thirsty and the next thing you know, along with your chilled drink while awaiting your ordered meal, your waiter brings you a bowl overflowing with the plumpest, richest tomatoes you have ever seen.  Or maybe chickpeas and fresh yoghurt.

A snack , a meze, to have with your drink, no extra charge.

Crete - lunch by the sea 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews

Crete – lunch by the sea 2008
(c) Sherri Matthews

In a hurry to pay your bill?  A word of advice: never be in a hurry when you go on holiday to Crete because you won’t be allowed to mention that dirty word over there.  You will be told to relax and to take your time.  An alien concept to so many of us.

While you wait for your bill, allow another half an hour or so to enjoy the chilled bowl of dark red cherries served on ice, or the sliced watermelon that accompanies your bill.

After this long, lazy lunch you might find yourself strolling through the pleasant harbour town of Agios Nikolaos, nestled cozily alongside beautiful Mirabello Bay on the north-eastern shores of Crete.

Harbour town of Agios Nikolaos, Crete 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews

Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos Crete 2008
(c) Sherri Matthews

As you approach the fisherman and their boats you will stop to catch your breath as you view the magnificent sight of a peninsular just across what is known as the Gulf of Elounda.

This, you soon discover, is the rocky and barren island of Spinalonga.

What you first notice jutting out from the peninsular is the Venetian fortress which was originally built in 1579 to protect the nearby port of Elounda.

Venetian Fortress of Spinalonga, Crete 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews

Venetian Fortress of Spinalonga, Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews

You come to learn some of this island’s history: in 1715, the last of the Venetians were removed when the Ottoman Turks took over. During the Cretan revolt of 1878, the island became a home for the remaining Ottoman families who sought refuge there, fearing Christian reprisals.

What you then learn is at that after the last of the Turks left the island in 1903, it was turned into a leper colony. The conditions were prison-like, cruel and unforgiving.

Things improved when a hospital was built at last in 1937, but it was another twenty years before the colony was closed and the last surviving lepers were taken to a hospital in Athens. The last person to leave the island was a Priest, who left in 1962.

The island today is uninhabited, its fortress and town in ruins.

Of course, it begs exploration.  Local fisherman run boats daily from both Agios Nikolaos and Elounda to Spinalonga enabling you to head over there and spend as long as you need to before you catch the last boat back.

One of the first sights to steal your gaze is what is known as Dante’s Gate.  This is where the lepers entered when they were first brought to live on the island: it seems to exude sorrow and despair as the place where the lepers said goodbye to their loved ones, never to return.

Dante's Gate, Spinalonga, Crete 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews

Dante’s Gate, Spinalonga, Crete 2008
(c) Sherri Matthews

None of the lepers knew what was going to happen to them.  They were looked after with food, water and medical supplies, but they never lived with their families again.  It was at least better than the caves which were once their homes.

Evidence of an entire community, once living and breathing, is still clearly visible; from ovens to staircases, homes and the hospital:

The view from the top is spectacular.  I imagine what it must have been like for the lepers to have looked longingly across the sparkling sea to the mainland where their loved ones  lived, knowing that they would never be able to join them again for the rest of their lives.

Walking along the dry, dusty trails, you will come across this Church sign. Nearby, lies the barely noticeable cemetery.

The Church sign, Spinalonga (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The Church sign, Spinalonga
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The Church just ahead was used for funerals.  It is tiny and sparse, barren in its surroundings.  The silence is melancholy, pierced only by the cry of a gull swooping overhead and the soft clacking of a stone as it falls away beneath your tread, knocking into other stones.

The Church of St George Spinalonga, Crete, 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews

The Church of St George
Spinalonga, Crete, 2008
(c) Sherri Matthews

As you trail away from the beaten path and climb ever higher, you will find a place of solitude.  Lost in quiet thought, you feel nothing but a breath of hot air gently brushing your face as you listen to the sea lapping at the rocky shore below.

It is there that you might just find a moment’s peace wrapped up in a long-ago silence.

Yet, if you really listen you may hear the whisper of the voices of those who once lived on this island, carried along in the sea-breeze not as the cry of the seagull but as distant cries of those who were lost and lonely, longing for their families.

View from the top of Spinalonga, Crete 2008 (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

View from the top of Spinalonga, Crete 2008
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

For there are those who remain on the island, whispering to our hearts from their eternal rest: as they walk softly in the shadows alongside us who visit, unseen but sensed, we are reminded by them of what is most important: that our lives are forever entwined and will never be forgotten.


This post is partly in response to the prompt of ‘Relic’ from last week’s Weekly Photo Challenge as well as this week’s prompt which is ‘Containers‘.  The island contains the abandoned relics of an old leper colony. I thought this would be the perfect excuse to write about this enthralling and fascinating island.

 

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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74 Responses to The Island of Spinalonga

  1. suej says:

    Oh, this is interesting Sherri….I visited in 1988, and you were escorted around. Looks like it’s self-guided now. I have some images on slides that I scanned in, alas all too few but they look great even after 25 years! You can see my post here http://suejudd.com/2014/06/26/spinalonga-behind-the-pack-part-2/ (apologies if you have already)

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    • Sherri says:

      Just read your post Sue and commented, loved it. Your slides came out so well! We have been here twice, 2008 and 2010, the first time we booked it as an excursion which was a mistake for two reasons: more expensive and we didn’t have near enough time to wonder off on our own and explore. The second time we took one of the local fisherman’s boats and had all the time we wanted just making sure to time it for the last of the boats for the return journey. I really experienced the atmosphere better the second time and it was that that I wanted to convey here. There are still lots of guided tours though so we kept well away from them, I can’t bear them! Thanks for the read Sue, glad you found it so interesting 🙂

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      • suej says:

        Like you, I’m not too keen on guided tours! Interesting that you a can wander around, you couldn’t when we went, and I couldn’t hang back too far from the group!

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  2. jennypellett says:

    How wonderful to have visited Spinalonga – have you read Victoria Hislop’s book “The Island?” She weaves a story around that very colony – very descriptive.

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    • Sherri says:

      We have actually been twice Jenny, the last time in 2010, and as I replied to Sue above, it was better to go with one of the local fishermen and not as an excursion as then we could escape the crowds, which as you can imagine can be huge in the summer, and experience the peace and solitude higher up. To my shame, I haven’t read The Island. I had it to read back then and somehow never did. I really must 😉

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  3. It’s blistering hot here, too, plus lightening struck a tree in the park behind our house and split it in half! The neighborhood children loved watching the fire engines arrive.
    I loved taking a delightful island adventure with you. Sherri, you take wonderful pictures and describe everything so well. The Church of St. George captured my attention and imagination the most. So many stories probably float in and around that little building; I’m hoping that the spirit of some ghost from the past will float up and ring the bell!

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh no! That’s scary, (glad no other damage was done poor tree though!) but what a thrill for the children! We had a huge thunderstorm here on Friday night, the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard in my life at about 5 am that I literally leaped out of bed! Our entire house was alight with lightening flashes, never seen anything like it. It gets so humid here so we are all very sticky…my saving grace is the overhead ceiling fan which I insisted we put in when I moved back from the States. We’re not geared for the heat, no air con here!
      Yes, the bell…I was very drawn to it I remember, up there by the tiny Church and away from the guided tours, it was the most incredible sense of peace and solitude yet it was tinged with an aching sadness. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post Marylin, thank you…but wait….is that the sound of a bell ringing?
      Keep cool 😀

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  4. Captivating photographs and intriguing history, Sherri. This is another interesting corner of the world I’d love to visit. So much to explore as you mention. As i read about the leper colony the book, The Island, also came to mind. You’ll be amazed at the story if you have a chance to read it. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      It was wonderful to explore this island Tess, we discovered the second time we were lucky enough to go in 2010 that it was better to pay the local fishermen rather than pre-book an excursion, which was more money with limited time. The second time we could beat the guided tours and do our own thing. It was then that I really sensed the peaceful, yet melancholic atmosphere, just incredible. And the beauty surrounding it is breathtaking. yes, the book The Island, which, to my shame, I’ve never read but really must. Seems everyone has read it except me, but then I’m always last to the party, ha! So glad you enjoyed this little read, thank you as always Tess 😀 😉 😀

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  5. Heyjude says:

    Beautifully told. And some stunning photos.

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  6. TanGental says:

    Looks fab; I wasn’t quite so lucky. We took an Easter break there in about 1996, the coldest March on record. No heating and we shivered for a week. The children made us promise never to take them back. Next time it will be May or June!

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Geoff! Ahh…that’s a great shame. Sounds like our ‘sunshine’ trip to Lanzarotte in April a few years ago – not much rain there, we were told. Except the week we went, there was a heatwave back here and it rained most of the week on us. So much for our spring sunshine getaway!! It gets very hot in the summer in Crete (we have been twice, both times in July and it was high 30’s to 40 most days) but I can deal with a dry heat much better than humidity. I hear that May and September are perfect over there. I hope you get to go again and this time enjoy it. And no shivering 😉

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      • TanGental says:

        We did feel foolish because if we had looked at average temperatures we would have been better equipped. We will get there sometime though I doubt we’ll make it for the 30-40s. I agree dry is better than humid but anything about 32 is too much for me. .

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  7. Oh how I’d love to be sitting with you at that table by the sea, just hanging out and chatting. Wouldn’t that be great, Sherri? Your beautiful post and photos were the sunshine in my life today…thank you so much for sharing your trip to Crete….so lovely! xoxo

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jill, every time I look at that photo I wish I was back there, having a long lazy lunch by the sea, not a care in the world…and I would love to sit there with you, that would be so wonderful 🙂 Think of all the snacks we would get through as we would be there for hours 😉
      Thank you so much Jill, and I’m thrilled to have brought you some sunshine today…or as I type this, it is now tomorrow (if you know what I mean!) 😀 xoxoxox

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  8. ChristineR says:

    Poignant, but lovely all the same, Sherri.

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  9. Luanne says:

    I can’t get these images out of my mind. I really need to get out of the house! xo

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  10. Absolutely brilliant Sherri! The photos, the story, descriptions, everything!! This need to be published-period! I will never go to Greece but thanks to you feel I have travelled those hot dusty roads, partook of the Mediterranean cuisine and explored the history of Spinalonga!! And we are having humidity here on the Central Coast like I have never felt before-I almost think I’m back East!! ❤

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    • Sherri says:

      Dear Diane, your enthusiasm for my posts blesses me so much. What I love so much is being able to bring these places that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and then to share them here. There are so many places in the world that I know you and I would both love to see but probably never will so it is wonderful to know that we have witnessed such beauty in those places we have seen.
      We definitely experienced this adventure together, you and I, and enjoyed a delectable Greek lunch sitting at a wooden table by the sea. I’m imaging it now…and dreaming…
      So sorry for all your humidity, same here, really horrible. I’m so grateful for my ceiling fan in our bedroom, our only one! I got so used to them in the States that I couldn’t live without it now! No air con here, we aren’t geared to the heat at all but at least I can get some cool shade in the garden in the late afternoon.
      Hope you manage to keep cool my friend, and thank you so much for your delightful comment, you’ve lifted my spirits immensely. Will message you later today on FB… 😀 ❤ xoxoxoxox

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  11. TBM says:

    The Greeks don’t believe in eating without drinking–so what you’re saying is I should move to Crete 🙂

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  12. jenniferkmarsh says:

    What a beautiful and interesting post, Sherri 🙂 You almost tempted me to go to such a sizzling hot place, but I’m not so easily swayed 😉 You need to travel to Norway and write a post about that. Steven and I would love it. We may as well have been in Crete yesterday, though 😐 It was disgustingly hot. I nearly fainted. I hate being so heat sensitive, it’s hideous 😦

    ROLL ON WINTER, I SAY.

    But ruins are magnificent. There are no better places in the world to inspire the imagination. Think of all the stories that place could conjure! Wonderful 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Well, if I (almost!) tempted you to go to Spinalonga then perhaps you must, one day! You would love the history of it and the peace and quiet (as you escape the crowds and are prepared to do a bit of climbing!) You must go when it isn’t sizzling hot (and it was a sizzler the day we went) so I suggest May or September. Gosh, I sound like a tour guide, haha!!

      You know, I would absolutely LOVE to go to Norway. Hubby and I keep talking about it. My mum visited a couple of years ago and said it was the most beautiful place she’s ever been, and she’s travelled a lot. I would definitely do a blog post in your’s and Steven’s honour. Now, I just need to get there….. 😉

      It has been SO HOT here…but it’s the horrible humidity that is the worst. We had a great thunderstorm though didn’t we? That was fantastic!

      Ahh…you sound like my daughter, she suffers terribly with the heat, it makes her physically ill and I’m sorry you have the same by the sounds of it. That’s awful, hope you feel better today and no fainting 😦

      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about Spinalonga though Jenny Jen Jen, thank you so much for your always lovely comments…I’ve wanted to share about it for some time and it seemed the right time. Steaming hot 😀

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      • jenniferkmarsh says:

        Haha, clearly your calling in life was to be a travel guide, Sherri 😉

        *gasp* GO THEN! GO GO GO! haha. I’m sure it would be great there 🙂

        Nope, haven’t had one thunderstorm my way. I feel terribly left out. The entire country has had them apart from this little bubble over me. How boring. But no, this heat. I can’t stand it 😦 😦 It’s making me want to emigrate to Greenland for goodness sake. But yep! She sounds like me all right (or I sound like her). I get physically sick in heat. It’s so miserable, and it really is life debilitating. But I always feel so stupid about it, like I’m over-reacting or something… But I cannot tell you how ill it makes me feel. Even right now, sat in my home doing nothing, I feel ill.

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      • Sherri says:

        Clearly, haha!! You remind of that ad for Secret Escapes where she says at the end: “Go, Go!!”
        I can’t believe you didn’t get the storms, I thought all of Somerset did 😦 Not fair, not fair one bit fair. You must surely get one soon…it’s your turn 😀
        And as for feeling so ill in the heat, again, you really are just the same as my daughter. She can barely tolerate it and I’m so sorry….I hope you feel better soon dear Jenny Jen Jen…I’d send hugs but that will make you too hot too so I’ll send lots of lovely cooling rain and a massive, dark, loud, flashing thunderstorm. How’s that? o_O

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  13. Beautiful photos Sherri! And kind sad too because we can never imagine how lonely they were.

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    • Sherri says:

      A melancholy peace is the best way I can describe it there …beautiful, yet sad, hot, dry and barren, yet full of the memories of the lives once lived there…never forgotten it. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, thank you Jhanis 🙂

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  14. Your post brought back memories of visiting the Temple of Knossos. Cete is, as you say, so full of history. I wish we could have stayed longer there, to see all there was to see. The leper colony must have been a very sad place to visit. I didn’t get to see it. Lovely photos, Sherri. xx

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    • Sherri says:

      We went to the Temple of Knossos too. Unfortunately, we went on the last day of our holiday before driving to Heraklion airport, which was rather silly. It was over 40C and we got so hot! I’ve done one or two posts about Crete and some of the Minoan ruins there. The history is amazing isn’t it? Spinalonga leaves a mark on all who visit.
      Thank you very much Sylvia, I’m glad you enjoyed the pics 🙂 xx

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  15. Pat says:

    I loved this post, Sherri. I felt like I was on this excursion with you walking down the dusty paths and exploring the buildings abandoned so long ago. I would wonder, too, in the quiet moments what it was like back then and about the people. It must have been difficult but also blessed in the loving care given.

    It reminds me of this poem by Emily Dickinson (http://www.bartleby.com/113/5074.html) and the quiet dust of the caretakers and lepers, though not so joyful and eloquent:

    Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

    Part Five: The Single Hound

    LXXIV

    THIS quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies,
    And Lads and Girls;
    Was laughter and ability and sighing,
    And frocks and curls.
    This passive place a Summer’s nimble mansion, 5
    Where Bloom and Bees
    Fulfilled their Oriental Circuit,
    Then ceased like these.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh what an absolutely beautiful poem, thank you so much for sharing it Pat. I love Emily Dickinson’s poetry. I know how much you love to visit these kind of historical places and I’m so glad that you came along, taking in the atmosphere and learning all about the days when Spinalonga was a leper colony. The sadness and sorrow is palpable, yet there is also a peace and beauty there unlike any other.
      It is quite uncanny to stand there, overlooking the magnificent beauty of the Agean sea against the stark, barren dryness of the surrounding terrain. Knowing that a community of lepers once lived there, never allowed back on the mainland again to be with their families, is sad but yes, it’s good to know that they were looked after.

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      • Pat says:

        You’re welcome, Sherri. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re right in that I love to visit these types of historical places if only in spirit when others, like yourself, take me there and write about it. I can feel the energy the places still hold and can almost picture the sounds and smells of times long ago. It makes it ever more clear to me how much we are connected to everything.

        I loved reading this piece. The photos and your writing brought it to life for me. Thank you for sharing it with us. You’re a good writer, Sherri — very, very good. 🙂

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      • Sherri says:

        I’m thrilled beyond words Pat that you were able to make the most of this ‘experience’ and thank you so much for your lovely compliment. Means so much to me that my friend. I’ll be signing off shortly, bedtime, so I wish you a beautiful rest of your day and catch up with you soon 🙂

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  16. I agree with Jill. I could just sit at that table, looking out at that blue water and hey, let’s not hurry. But relax and have a wonderful time. Crete has always been of interest to me. Have fun! Enjoy the olives!

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Hollis, and yes, Crete is a wonderful place to visit. In fact, I wouldn’t mind living there! I hope you get to go one day, the history of the place alone is marvellous, going right back to the Minoan Civilisation. The place oozes relaxation, the people are wonderful and the food divine. The olives are extra -special too, due to the special Cretan soil, not to mention the sea views and those delightful wooden tables right on the beach…just looking at that photo again makes me want to hop on a plane and go there…right now! C’mon, let’s go 😀

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  17. Thank you Sherri for taking me on this walk with you. You said it was time to take one and a better place to wander would have been hard to find. I was impressed by the way you took us with you with your use of the 2nd person narrative – something I find difficult to maintain but you did perfectly. I have added Spinalonga to my list of places still to visit. I have also put the Island on my reading list. Gosh I just hope I live long enough to do all these things. Cheers my friend 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      I did Irene, and I’m so glad that we got our walk in, even though it was rather hot 😀 Oh, I can’t believe I haven’t read The Island yet, embarrassing isn’t it? Glad you have it on your list too, we can chat about it when we’ve both read it during another walk, can’t wait! I do hope you get to visit Spinalonga one of these days, but I know what you mean. There are so many places to see…but time (and money) constrain. Let’s hope for enough of both 🙂
      I’m intrigued by your comment about my use of the 2nd person narrative. As I started writing this post I felt that it was a better way to try and describe the journey and it just came out that way. I love how you point these things out Irene, thank you greatly because I highly value your thoughts and feedback on the writing side of things and this has given me yet more pause for thought. Talking of which, I now need to come back to your place for our ongoing memoir/fiction conversation. Loving it! Cheers to you too my friend, and thank so much for another great walk 😀 ❤

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  18. From the top, I just want to dive into that crystal blue waters and make a huge , exciting , “best time of my life” splash. Always my travel bucket to see Greece. Not only is where legends of Greek Gods were born here but the island beaches, a heaven’s bliss in itself. For now, I will bask in its glorious Sun drenched waters through your post. Ah, Summer is truly beautiful. Thanks for an unforgettable trip. All the best to you and your family.

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    • Sherri says:

      Wouldn’t it be amazing to dive off there into those azure waters? Love that…”best time of my life” splash… 🙂 To think that Crete is the birth place of Zeus and home of the Minotaur makes it even more magical and evocative. It is a truly spectacular island and I truly hope you get to go there one day IT. We have been blessed to have been twice and we fell more in love with it the second time. It gets under your skin! I’m so glad that you enjoyed basking in the sun drenched waters of the Agean sea, thank you so much for your kind words and wishes and I hope that you and your family are basking in your glorious summer sunshine, soon to be together again 🙂

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  19. restlessjo says:

    Where to start, Sherri? This is beautiful! Maybe with my Shirley Valentine moment by that beach. (I know- you were sharing it with your other half but I’m going to be selfish) 🙂
    We stayed at Rethymnon, at the far end of the island, but when I was doing my research, I was very taken with the look of Ag Nik and Elounda Bay. One of the things I would not have done was Spinalonga- I was quite spooked by the notion of those poor lepers in that amazing location. (I’m definitely not one of those who would have wanted to see Robbin Island) But you’ve made it into a very beautiful and readable post so thank you for that.

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    • Sherri says:

      And what a Shirley Valentine moment it would be! You can see why she loved it so much 😉 Rethymnon is beautiful from what we read about it but haven’t been there…yet! Ag Nik is a lovely little harbour town, not particularly ‘Cretan’ in the traditional sense as it is more touristy, but it is close to other towns like Sitia which is full of history. Elounda Bay is truly beautiful. Spinalonga fascinated me but I wasn’t sure at first how I would feel about going there. I was glad we went knowing that at least the lepers were looked after and no longer cast off into caves. The sense of their loneliness from being separated from their families seemed to merge with the sense of the community they managed to form, so finding a new way for family life to grow within that community. Thank you Jo, I’m glad to know that you enjoyed this read, despite your understandable misgivings about the place.

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  20. Ste J says:

    The home of the Minoans, what a great post, with this weather it made crete feel so close. I love the photos, it makes me want to go and explore. I’m all for taking my time and not rushing…I think i will dedicate the rest of my day to just such a pastime…as a homage to Crete of course.

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    • Sherri says:

      We may as well be in Crete with this weather we’re having! Crete is conducive to relaxing, taking your time and exploring and I hope you got to do all three today Ste!! Well, always good to imagine anyway. So glad you enjoyed the tour, thank you very much 🙂

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  21. Wow! Awesome places! Love to go visit!

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Donna! So glad you enjoyed the tour, always a pleasure to share it with you and I do hope you get to go to Crete some day. It is a place you will never forget 🙂

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  22. Love this Sherri, I’ve always been fascinated by lepers and what once happened to them. This is such a poignant, atmospheric post. You really captured me at the gate and then beyond, putting me in the shoes of the lepers and how they must have felt.

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    • Sherri says:

      Hi Andrea and thanks so much for this, it is always so good to know that you felt that you were ‘there’ as you read it as sometimes I just write as I imagine it to be and then hope that others understand what I’m on about! Looking at the photos again brings it all back. Spinalonga is truly a fascinating island to visit, I wanted to try and capture the atmosphere and what it felt like. What is evident in the ruins of all the buildings on the island is that despite their loneliness, the lepers went on to form their own communities, some even falling in love and marrying I believe (which was forbidden). A few children were born and were not afflicted with leprosy but were removed from their parents back to the mainland. The grief of that moment must have been horrendous. I must read up more about it and also the book The Island, which I wonder if you’ve read? The overriding emotion is one of a melancholy peace.

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      • I haven’t read The Island but will have to add it to my reading list. Melancholy peace is good – I think it’s that sense of a cloistered and isolated life that is one of the things that interests me (despite the tragedy of the disease). I’ve always been attracted to convents as well!

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        • Sherri says:

          Yes – ‘cloistered and isolated’ – those truly do define how life must have been for the lepers. I can see why you would feel the same about convents along those lines. Peace within the confines of life as they know it, without the distractions of life on the ‘outside’ but interspersed with a deep longing and sadness for the life they are missing out on and the loved ones they can’t be with any longer. More for the lepers of course, not so much for the nuns since they choose their lifestyle. Fascinating. I really enjoy our chats Andrea. 🙂

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  23. Tom Merriman says:

    Fabulous, Sherri! And touching as well.
    I think that is a place I’d like to go and explore… I like ruins – I always think of the things throughout time that they’ve seen, and hope that, somehow, I pick up some of those events as thoughts. I love history and finding out about the past. And coincidences. I wonder if we can get a hat-trick?

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    • Sherri says:

      We really must stop meeting like this Tom, haha!!! Seriously though, thanks so much for dropping by, really glad you enjoyed it. Exploration is a must, even in the heat! I do just that, I love to soak up the atmosphere and try to imagine what it must have been like all those years ago. The most amazing Minoan ruins are on Crete and you really get a feel for how it must have been so many thousands of years ago. Truly incredible. History is wonderful isn’t it ? Now…we’ve covered peacocks and Crete. What’s next I wonder? Let’s go for that hat-trick 🙂

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  24. thirdhandart says:

    Gorgeous photos Sherri! “Crete – lunch by the sea” and “View from the top of Spinalonga, Crete” are my favorites. The food looks delicious. And, the Mediterranean Sea looks so cool and clear!
    You’re right, catching one of the local fisherman boats to Spinalonga sounds so much better than booking an excursion. Fortunately, I don’t have to do either, as your tour made me feel like I was walking along beside you… loved the interesting historical tidbits.
    Thank you for the short, but lovely vacation Sherri! 🙂 It must be heavenly to relax and take your time…

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    • Sherri says:

      The view from my summerhouse was of those beautiful, azure seas and I’m thrilled to have shared the view with you today Theresa, as well as a delicious Cretan lunch by the Mediterranean Sea. We could have chatted for hours 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed your mini vacation…we had fun relaxing and exploring and taking all the time in the world didn’t we? Thanks so much for coming along…we must do it again 🙂

      Like

  25. mariekeates says:

    I read the book The Island many years ago and your posts has some of the haunting quality if that story. I’d live to go there and see it for real. Greek hospitality is legendary and the slow, lazy pace of life. It was one of the things I loved about Cyprus.

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    • Sherri says:

      I take that as a great compliment, thanks so much Marie! I know I’ve said this over and over here, but I really MUST read The Island. I can imagine Cyprus being just the same as Greece. Love the culture. Hope you get to go to Crete one day 🙂

      Like

  26. Lisa Reiter says:

    Late getting here, but this is a super post. Spinalonga is haunting place for so many reasons and you would enjoy The Island!!

    Is that picture of ‘lunch by the sea’ at Bali by any chance? I love Crete – a world of it’s own. Lisa xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      So glad you enjoyed these pics as I promised you but of course I was late getting them out (now there’s a surprise!!!) so I’m just happy you got here! I really do want to read The Island now.
      Never been to Bali, but would love to. Sounds as if you have though! It’s in Crete. The Tavernas are on one side of the street and the tables are on the other side, right on the beach in a lot of cases. One of the most relaxing moments I can ever think of. Crete is a fabulous place isn’t it?
      Thanks Lisa, hope you have a good couple of weeks and catch up with you soon 🙂 xx

      Like

  27. I feel like going. Now. You give us a very vivid description of Crete that I’m sure will tempt many of us. I like the lines about lingering at the table after asking for the check. France is not Crete but I have to return to this habit when I go back. Here the check arrives before dessert! Really?
    Again, beautiful photos, as always. Thank you, Sherri.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I hope you do get to go to Crete one of these days Evelyne, it is a most beautiful, laid back, peaceful place. Being ‘forced’ to relax like that doesn’t come easy to us Brits and Americans always on the go. Ha, yes, I know what you mean about getting the check (forgot it’s called that over there!) before dessert. France is very similar in my experience to Crete and in fact hubby and I shall be enjoying some well-needed R&R in your beautiful country next week and I can’t wait! I will of course be posting about it when I return, but will do a signing-off post later today with one or two pics. I hope I do them justice for you 🙂
      Thank you, as always, for leaving your lovely comment, and I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer in your delightful neck of the woods 😀

      Like

  28. Sartenada says:

    This is great post. It brought my memories back when I visited in Spinalonga in the 1990s. I enjoyed every photo. Thank You.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Sartenada, I’m very happy to know that you enjoyed it so much and that it brought back your own memories of this amazing place. Take care – Sherri 🙂

      Like

  29. Imelda says:

    What a lovely place you have here. I am most touched by your story and by the pictures about the once leper colony, now abandoned to nature. I see the people there, lonely and almost just waiting for the inevitable, and now the place so full of the memories and sighs of its once inhabitants.

    Like

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